06/25/2020 12:04 pm
As the effects of COVID-19 began to settle into our environment, I vowed to provide a safe and inclusive atmosphere, to foster relationships, and to individualize the learning experience for my students.
My first priority was to find a balance between maintaining course content integrity and supporting the individual needs of my students in the shift to online learning. I began by revising presentations and assignments to an online format. I established a system to provide ongoing updates and announcements to students, ensuring clear communication of expectations and maintaining course objectives.
To foster ongoing relationships, I incorporated weekly virtual meetings to encourage positive face-to-face interactions and meaningful discussions both as a whole class and in smaller groups through online breakout rooms. In these meetings, students challenged their understanding of course topics and supported one another by sharing their personal stories which encouraged solidarity, optimism, and hope among their peers. The average online attendance for my classes remained consistent at 90-100 percent, which I attribute to the students’ desire for consistency and personal connection.
Students also took advantage of virtual office hours offered through email, phone, and virtual meetings for clarity on course expectations and support with assignments. The shift to online learning was challenging for most of my students, who benefited from the personal connection, routine, and accountability offered in face-to-face classes. Despite the challenges, they continually validated a shared appreciation for professors holding them to the same level of accountability that they had in the classroom and for the flexibility offered as they navigated the emotional impact of the stay-at-home order.
The semester was a challenging one for many reasons, however, my Urban Education graduate students had a wonderful ending to all their hard work. Despite the difficult situation, this group of Rockford Public School teachers attended online classes every week with passion and perseverance, wholly supporting one another. For our last session, Assistant Professor of Education and the Director of our Secondary Programs & Urban Education Graduate Program, Annie Baddoo, and I combined both of the educational cohorts for an online celebration to acknowledge everything this amazing group of students accomplished this semester. We ended our evening by inviting guest speaker, Gregory Michie, author of Same As It Never Was: Notes on a Teacher’s Return to the Classroom, to the virtual meeting. His book was one of many we studied , and it was the perfect ending to a unique semester!
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